Health & Fit Why Our Ancestors Were Protected From Alzheimer’s
This May Be The 1st New Alzheimer's Drug In Years
A drug originally designed to treat diabetes has reversed Alzheimer's disease symptoms in lab mice.In the study, published online this week in Brain Research, scientists from Lancaster University in England used lab mice to test how effective a diabetes drug known as a triple receptor was in treating Alzheimer’s disease. The mice in the study were specifically created to express certain genes associated with Alzheimer's disease in humans. The researchers waited for the mice to age before giving them the drug, therefore giving their disease some time to develop and damage the animal’s brain.
A pair of Harvard researchers is challenging what we think we understood about Alzheimer’s—and might have stumbled on a big clue for a cure.
Alzheimer’s disease has no cure—yet.
It was discovered in 1906 by its namesake, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. But it wasn’t until the 1980s thatbegan, so it’s , making the compared to other conditions like heart disease and cancers.
But two researchers are turningabout Alzheimer’s on its head.
Here’s how: Beta-amyloid, a sticky protein that clumps together and kills brain cells leading to cognitive decline, has been heralded asto cure the disease, according to . to find genetic mutations linked with beta-amyloid production or drugs to target the protein before it causes too much damage.
Potential blood test for Alzheimer's shows early promise
Researchers in Japan and Australia say they have made important progress in developing a blood test that could in future help doctors detect who might go on to get Alzheimer's disease.In a study published online January 31 in Nature, the scientists said the test, which can detect a toxic protein known as amyloid beta, linked to Alzheimer's, was more than 90 percent accurate in research involving around 370 people.
Butand , two Harvard researchers focusing on Alzheimer’s, are looking at the protein in a different way.
Since, Tanzi and Moir, have shown that amyloid-beta, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s, is actually antimicrobial, meaning it’s developing in the brain by fighting against something.
“We assumed that amyloid-beta protein in the plaque is just an abnormality that happens with age, but over the last 10 years, Rob and I discovered that the amyloid-beta protein actually plays a role in the brain by protecting the brain against infection,” Tanzi said.
This just so happens to connect with the body’s ancient immune system.
“Turns out, our most ancient immune system, before we had adaptive immunity, had little baby proteins, antimicrobial peptides, and when they saw bacteria or a virus or a fungus, they would stick to it and clump it up into a ball and the peptide would grow into a spiral like spaghetti and trap it like a fly trapping a seed, and that is one of the most classic ways that our primitive innate immune system protects us,” he said.
A compound in beets could slow Alzheimer's effects
The compound that gives beets their distinctive color could slow down the effects of Alzheimer's disease — the leading type of dementia.Misfolded protein accumulation in the brain — one of the processes associated with Alzheimer's diseases — could be slowed with the help of the vegetable and lead to the development of a drug aimed at alleviating some of the illness' long-term, debilitating effects, according to a new study.
One of these known peptides is called LL-37, which Moir and Tanzi discovered was molecularly similar to the amyloid-beta protein. Moir and Tanzi started with a petri dish, putting Alzheimer’s genes in it and adding ato the dish. Amyloid-beta plaques built up overnight.
“This changes the paradigm,” Tanzi said. “People thought these plaques formed over decades.”
Along with the new hypothesis came the questions, though: Was amyloid-beta forming in the brain to protect it from something? If so, what exactly? Is there a way to ward off what it’s protecting the brain from? And, of course, is this?
“I was totally gobsmacked when I first heard this story. I was very skeptical,”, an Alzheimer’s professor and researcher with Mount Sinai, told The Daily Beast. But research Gandy has since seen out of Mount Sinai and Banner Alzheimer's Center in Phoenix made him think Tanzi and Moir might be onto something. There are also other amyloids in the body—in semen, that can help block HIV—that strengthen Tanzi and Moir’s model regarding the likelihood that something similar happens in the brain, Gandy said.
Alzheimer's epidemic worsens in U.S.
Daughters, other relatives carry most of the responsibility Alzheimer's disease just keeps getting worse in the U.S. The latest report on the most common cause of dementia shows that 5.7 million Americans have the disease and it's costing us $277 billion a year.That doesn't include the unpaid time and effort of the people, mostly women, who are caring for spouses, parents, siblings, and friends with dementia, the annual report from the Alzheimer's Association shows."In 2017, 16 million Americans provided an estimated 18.
, MD, a neurology professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who researches genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s but hadn’t worked with Tanzi and Moir, was skeptical as well.
“I was mostly surprised, I never thought about it as a possibility. It wasn’t that I thought this was so far out, I just thought, ‘This is new, this is very different,’” he told The Daily Beast.
The next step is to figure out how to stop the amyloid-beta before it starts, as researchers have found that treating amyloid once it’s already formed doesn’t work or halt cognitive decline.
“When you treat someone with symptoms already, it’s like trying to put out a forest fire by blowing out the match,” Tanzi said. “It’s like cholesterol: You don’t want to wait until you have a heart attack to start taking a statin.”
Tanzi said that the aim is not to wipe out the amyloid-beta completely but just to dial it down because, after all, it is protecting the brain—at least at first.
“But we do fully support that you want to prevent or stop it in its very first stages, 10 years before symptoms, you hit the amyloid,” he said.
The First Warning Sign of Alzheimer's May Surprise You
This problem crops up long before any clinical diagnosis of the disease. We've all heard the stories of the grandma who got lost on her way home from the grocery store, or the great uncle who relies on GPS for the drive to his weekly doctor's appointment, but now there's research to back up the anecdotal evidence that trouble finding your way around may indicate a much bigger problem.Problems navigating new surroundings crop up before memory loss, and long before any clinical diagnosis of the disease, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
However, Tanzi said what would truly be ideal is to not have to touch the amyloid at all but to hit the microbes that trigger the amyloid. He and Moir, with backing fromand Open Philanthropy, are mapping everything residing in the Alzheimer’s brain by looking at autopsies in Alzheimer’s patients and those who are just as old but didn’t have the disease.
Tanzi said it could lead to athat would see if their brains are susceptible to the antibodies that cause the plaques. This would be true , an idea that’s long-been thought to be impossible in the Alzheimer’s world.
“The whole mindset is changing around Alzheimer’s to treat at the stage of pathology and not wait for the symptoms to occur,” Tanzi said. “You have to treat people before they have symptoms, like you treat HIV before it turns into AIDS and like cancer, you don’t wait until you have symptoms of cancer, you treat the tumor.”
Tanzi admits it’s unclear if this kind of preventative treatment will even work and, if it does, it’d be a long way out from clinical application. But still, in the face of a disease that’s been incredibly difficult to treat for 100 years, there’s hope. And this time, a new, different kind of hope.
Gallery: 7 things doctors want you to know about Alzheimer’s (courtesy Prevention)
Skin Cancer Associated With Reduced Alzheimer's Risk .
It's not yet clear why skin cancer survivors had a dramatically reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.Skin cancer may reduce a patient’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 92 percent, a new study revealed. Although it’s not clear why, there appears to be an association between lower Alzheimer’s disease risk in patients with certain skin cancers, there are likely both neurologic and biologic factors at play.
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